The History of Koret Playground and Carousel in Golden Gate Park
Generations of San Franciscans and visitors have cherished the Koret Playground and Carousel in Golden Gate Park. This iconic corner of the park holds a rich history that dates back to the late 19th century. Let’s dive into the fascinating story of the Koret Playground and Carousel.
The Early Days: Sharon Quarters for Children (1888)
- Pioneering Concept: In 1888, when the playground first opened as the Sharon Quarters for Children, it was a groundbreaking idea. It marked one of the nation’s first public playgrounds, providing a dedicated space for youth recreation.
- Features: The playground offered a variety of activities, including swings, see-saws, goat-pulled carts, and even gentle donkeys for the children. There were separate areas for boys and girls, with a ballground for boys and a croquet lawn for girls.
- Sharon Art Studio: On rainy days, children and caregivers could retreat to the Sharon Art Studio, a two-story building providing playrooms and a restaurant serving light refreshments.
The Playground Movement
- Social Context: The late 19th century saw the emergence of the Playground Movement, driven by new ideas about child development and the need for organized, supervised play to nurture young minds and bodies.
- Urbanization: Rapid urbanization and immigration had led to the creation of dense population centers, emphasizing the need for such playgrounds.
Koret Children’s Quarter (2007)
- Renovation: Thanks to the Koret Foundation’s generous support, the playground underwent a significant renovation and reopened in 2007 as the Koret Children’s Quarter. This renovation retained the beloved concrete slides.
The Carousel: A Timeless Delight
- Charming Carousel: A Herschell-Spillman Company Carousel, dating back to 1914, has been delighting children and adults alike. It’s a carousel filled with nostalgia and charm.
- Ride Experience: The carousel features four rings of animals that rotate counterclockwise, offering about four minutes of pure joy during each ride.
- Animals: Sixty-two animals, including horses, ostriches, frogs, and even a dragon, adorn the carousel. Riders can choose bench seating or “chariots” for their journey.
- Artistic Touch: Painted panels on the carousel depict various San Francisco attractions and Golden Gate Park landmarks, adding an artistic flair to the ride.
- Manufacturers: The carousel was manufactured by the Herschell-Spillman Company in North Tonawanda, New York.
- History: Originally located in Lincoln Park, Los Angeles, it was moved to the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island before finding its permanent home in Golden Gate Park in 1941.
Pavilion and Architecture
- Architect: Arthur Page Brown, known for the San Francisco Ferry Building, designed the carousel pavilion.
- Architectural Style: The pavilion combines elements of ancient Greece and Rome, creating a unique architectural blend that adds to its charm.
Restoration and Modernization
- 1977-1984: A comprehensive restoration of the carousel was undertaken during this period, costing at least $888,000. The restoration crew, led by Ruby Newman, worked diligently to preserve its wooden figures and overall beauty.
- Proposition 40: In 2002, Proposition 40 provided significant funding for a $1.66 million renovation of the Carousel Plaza, further enhancing the area surrounding the carousel.
- Visitor Experience: The carousel is a beloved attraction, west of Children’s Playground and south of the Sharon Art Studio.
- Operating Hours: It is open on Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Ticketing: Tickets are conveniently sold at the food kiosk labeled “Carousel tickets” next to the carousel pavilion. Prices are affordable, with adult tickets at $2, children aged 6-12 at $1 per ride, and children 5 and under riding for free with a paying adult. Children under 40 inches in height must be accompanied by a paying adult.
The Koret Playground and Carousel in Golden Gate Park are not just historical landmarks but timeless treasures that continue to bring joy to both locals and visitors. Don’t miss the chance to relive the past while creating your cherished memories at this wonderful corner of San Francisco.
Info provided by SF Rec and Park Department